Richard Land is arguably the most powerful member of the Southern Baptist Convention. For twenty-three years, he has headed up the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. While presidents of the SBC serve for one year and rotate out, Land's position has been the one that defines official church positions on issues of public policy. Richard Land has a nasty habit of making controversial and racist statements in public that directly impact church policy, the relationship the SBC has with African-Americans, and yes, even public policy.
Which is why it didn't surprise me to hear about his latest rant, this time around the Trayvon Martin case:
Land says he stands by his assertion that President Barack Obama "poured gasoline on the racialist fires" when he addressed Martin's slaying and that Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have used the case "to try to gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election."
Land, who is white, said in an interview he has no regrets about his remarks. He said he understands why the case has touched a nerve among black leaders, but he also defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is "statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man."
"Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable," he said.
In classic right wing fashion, Mr. Land, a former Bush appointee, just politicized that which was not political, but deeply personal to President Obama. When he said his own son would look just like Trayvon Martin, that was not a political statement. It was a statement about who President Obama is. Despite the right wing's desperate effort to politicize that remark, it just wasn't political. Barack Obama is undeniably black.
His remarks about statistical likelihood of a black man doing more harm than a white man are even more disturbing than his effort to "other" the President and make this tragedy some kind of statement about crime, especially in a state where incarceration of black men in private prisons is a profit center. Land presumed Trayvon Martin guilty on a statistical probability that's not based in any kind of justice. It would have been more accurate for him to say that if one is black and male, there's a statistical likelihood they'll be convicted of doing harm, whether or not they actually did it.
If you were to confront Land on the racist nature of his statements, he would point to his participation in the SBC's 1995 apology for supporting slavery as proof positive that he's no racist. After all, the SBC came into existence because southern Baptists wanted to keep slaves, unlike their northern brethren. In a remarkable step forward for the SBC, they elected Fred Luter, an African-American, as vice president in 2011, who is expected to become president of the organization this year.
Slow clap for gestures. Richard Land is unapologetic and always will be, because this is what he thinks he did with that rant, via The Grio:
"Part of racial reconciliation is being able to speak the truth in love without being called a racist and without having to bow down to the god of political correctness," he said.
Well, then. The issue seems to be where the line is between truth, politics, and race. Because in my book, automatically assuming Trayvon Martin asked to be murdered at age 17 for the unpardonable sin of walking through a neighborhood in a hoodie with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea is not truth. It's presumptive guilt, and it's what one would expect from a white guy who pays lip service to racial reconciliation while using a tragedy as a political sledgehammer.
As if to drive that point home, he goes on in the very same show to accuse MSNBC contributor Karen Hunter of racially profiling him for questioning whose side he might take in the 1860 election after he makes a point of saying this election is as important as that one was. I guess profiling is in the eye of the beholder. It couldn't be because Land represents an organization that wanted slavery to continue and actively opposed all efforts to end it, or that Land routinely claims he's not a racist while making racist statements. No, it's all because he's white, don't you know?
Just to give you a bit more of a sense of where Richard Land gets his news, and how his views are shaped, have a listen at his March 31st show, where he says the only decent reporting on the Martin case comes from Fox News, and then launches into a litany of "facts" they've reported about the case, including the claim that Zimmerman had a broken nose and was attacked by Trayvon Martin. Oh, he doesn't stop there. He dredges up the New Black Panther meme and several others as well, all in the name of protesting -- wait for it -- the media's presumption of guilt with regard to Zimmerman.
See, the dead guy must have deserved it, especially if he was a black kid in a hoodie. That racial bias is so deeply ingrained it can't be scrubbed out with resolutions and protests about one's piety. It just can't.